A National Guardsman and his wife were struggling to make a new city feel like home. They found a solution when they came across a wayward dog who would become their new best friend.
Sigifredo is currently serving as a First Lieutenant in the Army National Guard. He grew up in Austin, Texas in a military family.
“My mother was an MP [military police] for three years leading up to Desert Storm and got out when she got pregnant with me.”
While mom was an inspiration to young Sigifredo, she was far from the only member of the family who motivated him to serve.
“My mother was in the Army, I had a few uncles in the Army,” he says, “and I wanted to do my part because I was intrigued by the community.”
At the same time, Sigifredo was interested to balance both a civilian and military life. He joined ROTC during his junior year of college and, in 2012, enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard.
On the Arizona plains
Sigifredo’s most memorable experience during his time in the service was training in Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. Although it was usually over 100 degrees, the young veteran loved everything about his time there.
“It was hot there, but it wasn’t humid. You could cool down a little in the shade.”
But the weather was not what made Arizona memorable for Sigifredo. It was the foundation for his military career.
“I learned everything that I contribute to the Army there.”
In time, Sigifredo and his wife Kayla ended up living on the East Coast. She is an accountant, and had an opportunity to transfer to her employer’s office in one of the busiest Naval communities in the country.
“I had a job opportunity doing contract work in Northern Virginia near D.C,” Sigifredo says, “but my wife was interested in the Norfolk office of her firm, so I looked for other work in [the] area.”
It was not easy for an Army veteran to find work in a predominantly Navy town, but Sigifredo persisted.
“After moving here and trying to do an inter-state transfer to Virginia, they didn’t have a lot of room for an MI [military intelligence] officer,” he explains, “so the next closest state was [North Carolina].”
Now Sigifredo serves with the North Carolina Army National Guard at the Port of Virginia. Among other duties, he handles the complex logistics of vessels that arrive and depart for imports and exports. For a young man who grew up in Texas and had little to no maritime experience, this job is as interesting as they come.
“I grew up in Texas, and I went to Arizona for training, so there’s not a lot of exposure to water around there.”
When no one is looking
Moving to Virginia was quite a change for Sigifredo and Kayla. The couple soon found themselves discussing the possibility of adding a new member to the family. Specifically, a canine companion.
“My wife and I both love dogs,” the Army veteran says. “We love to travel, and we always liked having company.”
At the time the pair were only looking casually. Sigifredo admits that he “wasn’t against buying a dog,” but felt that “why buy when you can give a dog a home that might not have one otherwise?” It was decided: the Army veteran would adopt his new best friend.
One day, in August of 2016, Kayla and Sigifredo were driving around the Hampton Roads area. They decided to stop by the Virginia Beach SPCA just to look at the dogs available for adoption. It was there that they met Rusty, a very shy, sweet German Shepherd.
“All of the other dogs were barking and going crazy the way dogs do, and he walked up to the cage. When we walked by and bowed his head to us and tucked his tail under him,” Sigifredo recalls. “I think he may have even peed a little bit, and we just knew he was the one.”
Rusty was very submissive, and the shelter staff did not know much about his background. The only thing they knew for certain was that he had been a strictly outdoors dog and was not allowed inside.
All of that changed that very day when Sigifredo and Kayla brought the then five year-old dog home on a temporary foster.
You’ve got a new best friend
Sigifredo found out about Pets for Patriots from the staff at Virginia Beach SPCA. The shelter offers our members a 25% adoption fee discount and other ‘going home’ goodies, as well as access to their full-service, low-cost veterinary clinic.
The Guardsman fostered Rusty for a week, during which time he applied to Pets for Patriots. Once approved, Sigifredo immediately informed the shelter so that he could finalize the shy pup’s adoption. He was grateful for support we provide to make companion pet adoption more affordable for military veterans.
“[They] took a lot of pressure off of us financially,” he says. “We were new to the area. We hadn’t lived here very long and there were a lot of things we needed to take care of.”
Sigifredo encourages other veterans who are considering companion pet adoption do so through Pets for Patriots.
“I tell people to do it,” he says. “I’ve told several people it’s the way to go if you’re looking for a pet or a friend.”
Rusty’s ‘ruff’ start
There was no doubt that Rusty had a hard life prior to his adoption. He was thin, looked like a dog who had been neglected, and was heartworm-positive. Nonetheless, Sigifredo was determined to help his new best friend get healthy.
“He had severe heartworms when we first adopted him, and the treatment was very expensive.”
The staff at Virginia Beach SPCA were “very helpful, very knowledgeable, and very caring.” What’s more, Sigifredo noticed that they remembered Rusty every time he came in for treatment.
The shelter’s full-service veterinary clinic was more than accommodating, as well. As a Pets for Patriots member Sigifredo has access to the low-cost clinic without having to demonstrate proof of income eligibility.
“They stayed open later for us if we had to work late,” he says. “They’d take care of him until we were able to come get him. They were great.”
Not so Rusty after all
Sigifredo and Kayla both felt like “Rusty” was not a fitting name for their new best friend.
“He never seemed to respond to it, so I felt like he didn’t have any attachment to it,” the Army veteran explains.
So the couple decided to give Rusty a new name. Sigifredo’s choice was “Miguel” because he “thought it would be funny to have a dog named Miguel.” Kayla was not so sure.
“She didn’t really like the name Miguel,” he says, “so I suggested we call him Meeg for short and she liked that, and it stuck.”
Somebody to love
Meeg has been an all-around good guy from the beginning. He gives and receives love with equal abandon.
“He’s very affectionate. He’s needy. He loves attention,” Sigifredo shares. “If we’re sitting somewhere he’s not jumping all over us, but he wants to be touching us in some way. Laying his head in your lap, or sitting on your feet.”
Meeg is just the kind of companion the couple did not realize they needed until he was part of their lives. Now they cannot imagine a day without him.
“My wife and I are away from each other a lot because of work, and he keeps her company when I’m not there and he keeps me company when she’s not here. It’s nice because I don’t worry about her – knowing that he’s there with her.”
The shy dog gives his Army veteran a way to stay busy, as well.
“He loves to walk, and run, and play,” he says, “and even when he’s not interested in that stuff there’s always plenty of hair to vacuum.”
Most of all, Meeg not only shares his love with Sigifredo and Kayla, but makes where ever they live feel like home.